After humorously entering the stage to Star Wars’ ‘Duel of the Fates,’ Stone Sour burst into ‘Mission Statement,’ overflowing Manchester Academy’s tiny stage with a vigour that motivated the crowd into a frenzy of good natured violence. Within seconds of Cory Taylor’s opening lyrics it was clear that this was not a gig for the faint-hearted.
Although technically co-headlining, most of the crowd was there to see Avenged Sevenfold. Stone Sour did not disappoint by any means though. Whilst officially promoting Audio Secrecy, the twelve song set was a refreshing balance of all three Stone Sour albums, the highlight of which had to be ‘Bother,’ leading onto ‘Through the Glass.’ The contrast of the two more emotional acoustic songs against the constant onslaught of heavier tracks such as ‘Made of Scars’ not only saved me a heart attack, but demonstrated the versatility of the band, particularly Cory Taylor’s vocal ability.
Finishing the set with ‘30/30-150,’ Taylor’s voice was beginning to go, but in comparison to just staying alive in a crowd motivated by Jim Root’s manic guitar shredding, this wasn’t of particular concern.
Avenged Sevenfold opened their half of the night with Synyster Gates standing atop a podium, seamlessly delivering the opening riff to ‘Nightmare,’ whilst the lighting co-ordinator attempted to mass murder the world’s epileptic population. After regaining my sight I realised the stage had been transformed into the sort of cheesy gothic film-set architecture and death bat motifs one would expect of Avenged Sevenfold. Joining Gates atop the podium, Matt Shadows screamed the unmistakeable opening “Nightmaaaaaaare” into the mike and the crowd’s response confirmed they hadn’t come to see Stone Sour.
The overwhelming presence of Avenged Sevenfold fans in the audience likely came down to the death of their renowned drummer, Jimi ‘the Rev’ Sullivan, mid-production of their latest studio album – Nightmare. Shadows surmised the situation half way through the set, introducing The Rev’s temporary replacement, Mike Portney of Dream Theatre, before jumping into, ‘So Far Away’- “a sad song for our dearest friend.” Normally I’m a heartless bastard when it comes to these sorts of things but the performance was genuinely tear jerking, as Shadows described the loss of “our best friend for 18 years.” ‘So far Away’ was followed up by ‘Afterlife,’ with backing tracks of The Rev’s trademark screaming, creating an oddly fitting eerie illusion of The Rev’s presence. Of course, the illusion wouldn’t have been complete if not for the faultless drumming of Mike Portney, covering ‘Bat Country,’ ‘Seize the Day’ and ‘Unholy Confessions,’ without breaking a sweat, while standing up through the hectic drum solos of newer songs like ‘Welcome to the Family’ just for good measure.
Needless to say the band’s permanent members presented themselves with equal talent. The insane pace initiated by Stone Sour was intensified throughout Avenged’s routine, in no small part due to the joint-achingly fast fingered guitar work of Synyster Gates. He may hold the silliest name of a band, who quite frankly all have very silly names, but his jaw-dropping guitar solos are perfect for a live audience and give the band that unique sound which sets them apart from the competition. Seeing Gates and Zacky Vengance standing side by side whilst pulling one of their signature dual guitar solos gave me the sort tinglies little girls get watching The Jonas Brothers.
As the lights blacked out and everyone passed out on each other with the rush of adrenaline from their bodies I came to the conclusion that if I ever need to motivate a bunch of hairy barbarians for war, Mel Gibson can F*ck right off, I know exactly who to get. With Avenged set to headline Download and Corey Taylor & Jim Root headlining Sonisphere for Slipknot, I’d highly recommend checking out the rock festival scene this summer, as these performers do not disappoint.
Bad – Fighting to stay alive isn’t everyone’s thing
Good – I’m a sadist